The Catechol-O-MethylTransferase gene (COMT gene) provides instructions for producing the Catechol-O-methyltransferase enzyme (COMT enzyme).
This has become a gene of interest because of its ability to affect people’s thinking, emotions, and behavior.
Changes in the COMT gene have been associated with anxiety, aggression, and other psychopathological behaviors.
The COMT gene produces two versions of the COMT enzyme.
The membrane-bound COMT (MB-COMT) is produced by the brain’s nerve cells, which is the longer version.
The shorter version, called the soluble catechol-O-methyltransferase (S-COMT), is produced by different tissues in the body like the kidneys and liver and also by the blood.
In the brain, the MB-COMT helps in breaking down catecholamines.
Catecholamines are neurotransmitters with a single amino group, including dopamine, norepinephrine, and epinephrine.
This enzyme is especially important in breaking down neurotransmitters in the brain's prefrontal cortex.
The prefrontal cortex is a part of the brain associated with cognitive functions, including thinking, reasoning, problem-solving, and impulse control.
Changes in the COMT gene can lead to abnormal levels of COMT enzyme in the brain.
This can increase or decrease neurotransmitter levels, leading to different personality disorders and an increased risk of developing certain health conditions.
Below are some of the health conditions associated with COMT gene changes.
A 2013 study analyzed the relationship between COMT gene changes (polymorphism) and the risk of Parkinson’s Disease. It reported that Asians with the AA homozygote of the Val158Met polymorphism of this gene might have a higher risk of developing Parkinson’s.
Another 2013 study also analyzes the effect of Val158Met polymorphism of COMT on schizophrenia. Accordingly, people with this polymorphism may have an increased risk of developing schizophrenia because of structural changes in the prefrontal cortex.
Fibromyalgia is a condition that causes overall muscle pain, mood changes, sleep disorders, and fatigue. According to a 2013 study, people with fibromyalgia had lower COMT enzyme activity than those without the condition. The study concludes that the Val158Met SNP of this gene may be associated with pain sensitivity in these patients.
People with COMT gene changes may be at a higher risk of developing specific personality traits mentioned below.
Slow COMT activity may lead to higher levels of neurotransmitters in the brain, and this can cause mood changes, irritability, anger, anxiety, and other mental disorders.
Below are nutrients that support balanced COMT activity in the body.
Some flavonoids like EGCG, quercetin, fisetin, and oleoresin need COMT to be processed in the body.
Therefore, excess consumption of foods rich in these flavonoids may decrease COMT activity.
Some people may have slower COMT activity than others.
Genetic testing can help understand how a person’s COMT gene functions and changes in it, if any.
This may help recognize COMT activity levels and plan nutritional changes to supplement it.
Besides a good diet, nutritional supplements can also help balance these levels and improve COMT activity in the brain.
Talk to your doctor to know what supplements may work for you.